The thing about this medium, by which I mean web-serials more than just the internet, is that it’s sort of weighted in my favor as an author/content provider. I get to cherry-pick what I show you folks, only trotting out the prettiest projects for display. Meanwhile, the mutant spliced giraffe and koala I accidentally created stays locked in a crate beneath the cellar, hidden in shame at the horror I’ve created.
That is… until today.
Today I’m going to show you guys two of my projects that never got off the ground, or worse, did and then exploded spectacularly while in mid-air. Part of this is to chuckle at myself a bit, because learning to laugh at your cock-ups is almost as important as learning from them, but I also want to show what I took away from each experience. One of the most important things I believe is that, as an artist or an entrepreneur, you can’t be afraid to make mistakes. Greatness comes from risks, but risks also mean you’ll roll snake eyes on more than one occasion. When that happens, you salvage for parts and keep pressing forward. Failure is fine; sometimes it’s fantastic, so long as you make sure to take lessons away from it. So, here are, as promised, some of my favorite flops.
1. Fancy Fuggin Cocktail Hour
This was going to my first attempt to branch out into Youtube and general video humor. Essentially each episode was going to follow one of two formats, either:
A) I would take a classic cocktail and show how to make it with only $10, three stock wells (vodka, tequila, and whiskey) and three stock mixers (coke, sprite, and sweet and sour). The goal was to make palatable drink recipes for people on a budget, using stuff they might actually have laying around.
B) I would have to play Cocktail Roulette, which was a game where I would roll a D6, then spin the Wheel of Ingredients that many times. Whatever came up on the spinner went into the drink. I was allowed to control the portion (minimum of a shot per ingredient) and allowed to add two ingredient of my own to try and make it drinkable. Then, of course, I would have to drink it.
What Went Wrong
Conceptually, I still think is a fairly workable idea, and I still own the Youtube channel for Fancy Fuggin Cocktail Hour. The issue here was one of over-reaching. The more I dug into what went into making good videos, the more I realized how big the divide was between what I wanted to produce and what I’d be able to produce. Between camera costs, software, editing, and a steep learning curve, I was looking at a giant investment of time and money for what was likely a very minimal return. In the end I had to shelve the idea, at least until I found the chance to work with someone who has both the tools and experience to make a team project workable.
(As some of you might be thinking, I do indeed now have video savvy friends who helped me make my Booze & Cereal video, so this one may make a comeback somewhere down the line.)
What I Learned
I think I definitely gained a new respect for those who work in the visual medium, because just from the fraction I learned it was clear there was a tremendous amount of skill needed to succeed. More than that though, I learned to start front-ending my research on new endeavors. I got so excited by the concept that by the time I realized it wasn’t viable, I felt super let-down.
Since then, I’ve made it a point to learn everything about what a new project will require before really letting myself start going nuts with concepts and possibilities. That’s why I’ve spent the last month learning about podcasting basics, very basics, and probably still have another month or so to go before I start determining if I can actually push forward on a small podcasting project idea. Front-ended research, probably a really basic concept, but it took me a solid failure to figure it out.
2. Urban Fantasy Action Novel
Jesus, I don’t even know how to talk about this project, it’s gone through so many fucking iterations. Essentially this was one of the first projects I ever tried, before No More Ramen, and it was just godawful. The main character was a Mary Sue, the plot was thin, I wrote it in first-person present. It was bad, which is fine, because nobody’s first book is really good. Years later I came back to it, scrapped the concept as a whole, and started over fresh. The only thing I kept was the general tone/idea: an action story set in a modern world, but with magic.
What Went Wrong
I’ve re-styled this book at least 3 times, even getting 50k in on the last effort, but it just never seems to work. Maybe it’s because action is generally more fast-paced, and I fare better with a long and slow story-style, maybe I just keep falling into tropes when I’m not sure where to go. For whatever reason, this style of book had fallen out from under me at least three times already, and I’m actually thinking of going back to it and trying again sometime this year.
What I Learned
To put a point on it: Looting. While the stories didn’t seem to work, some of the characters really did. When I would scrap whole worlds and premises, I would still put down notes about the characters I really liked. Many of those have made their way into other books I’ve written. Essentially the lesson was that just because something doesn’t work as a whole doesn’t mean the whole lot of it is junk. Heck, sometimes you can cobble enough of the good parts from failed pieces into a great work all its own, the sort of thing you’d have never produced if you had gone at it from another angle. You just have to learn to sort through the terrible and be able to take note of the good.